Joanna Peña-Bickley, in a great blog post
, explains that personas are rooted in Jungian theory and premised upon the notion that there are twelve archetypes that symbolize basic human needs, aspirations, and/or motivations. These archetypes each possess unique characteristics, traits, and values that range from the heroic to the ordinary and from the wise to the jester. Marketers latched onto Jung's theory because these archetypes, or at least aspects of different archetypes, resonate with all of us and in many ways help us in defining ourselves. Thus, these archetypes are utilized extensively in advertisements for every type of product and service that we encounter.
In the higher education marketing context, persona development is (or, at least, should be) vital to crafting effective communications. .eduGuru wrote an informative and resource-rich post
regarding how persona development is important in determining how to design web sites and craft communications for the various audience types that the sites serve (prospective students, current students, faculty, alumni, parents, etc.).
A college web site is a great example of a communication channel that needs a variety of personas developed. However, even extremely targeted communications, such as a postcard invitation to alums to attempt to get them to attend homecoming, should be crafted after personas have been developed to inform the copy development and image selection. In short, there is no communication (no matter how large or small) that wouldn't benefit from being persona-driven.
At Converge, our donor motivation research is premised upon three main personas of alumni that were derived from extensive survey research and statistical analysis: Champions, Friends, and Acquaintances. Each of these personas have different motivations and characteristics that have major implications concerning how college and universities should communicate with them.
The data necessary to develop personas can be gathered via primary research methods (surveys and focus groups) as well as via predictive modeling that is based on database information that contains information pertaining to demographics, academic profiles, past giving/engagement behaviors, etc.) The more data that is collected and analyzed, the stronger the personas.
In future posts, we will examine how personas can be developed for prospective students as well as for prospective donors in the higher education marketing context.
Are you developing personas to drive your communications strategy?